The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (312): Yehudi

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (312): Yehudi


norman lebrecht

February 17, 2021

New to Youtube: the Brahms concerto with the LSO at its whispering best, Kertesz conducting.



  • E Rand says:

    Marvelous. Heroic.

  • Violin Accordion says:

    I’ll pass on this and prefer the more masculine Neveu.
    But Kertesz Brahms symphonies and his recordings with Katchen were the best.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Menuhin had the best sound, as pure sound, of any violinist I have heard in person, with the possible exception of Kyoko Takezawa.
    Bravo, Yehudi!

    • henry williams says:

      i saw him do the beethoven concerto with oistrakh
      conducting. i have never seen such wonderful playing in my life. i have been going to concerts for 61 years

  • CR Wang says:

    Who’s with Yehudi in the picture?

  • JussiB says:

    Everyone in the video is white and male. No one complained.

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    So let’s hear it for the first oboe as well! Is it a young looking Roger Lord?

  • Peter says:

    If only there were videos of Kertesz conducting the Dvorak Symphonies with the LSO. What a marvelous conductor he was.

    • Violin Accordion says:

      And Brahms symphonies and concertos, Grieg and Schumann with Julius Katchen IPO.

    • Amos says:

      Unfortunately the closest you will find on You Tube is a live broadcast of the 6th from the Proms which is imo superb. As for the Brahms I’m afraid my take away is that it again documents what a tragedy the Kertesz/LSO break-up was but I still don’t understand why YM is mentioned in the same breath with the great violinist of the 20th century. His service on behalf of the Allied forces during WWII was often heroic but for me the actual playing displays neither the technical or interpretative prowess of his contemporaries.

      • David K. Nelson says:

        Well, Amos, there certainly are commercial recordings, as well as many films of live performances, where, if that was all you knew of Menuhin’s violin playing, you’d legitimately question what all the excitement was and is about. I’d list as examples his stereo recording of the Chausson Poème, the Ravel Trio, the Beethoven sonatas with his son Jeremy on piano, and (at least to my ears) the Schubert pieces he recorded “live” with Benjamin Britten. Those are just examples of what to me are actually very sad recordings.

        I would also say things were NOT helped, from the standpoint of someone first coming to Yehudi Menuhin’s musicianship, by a certain class of music/record reviewer, often but not exclusively British, feeling obliged to opine that Menuhin was playing as beautifully as ever when he was NOT playing as beautifully as ever. But you’d only know that if you knew how he used to play. Why explore what he could do on scratchy and worn old 78s if the “experts” said this new recording was just as good, played just as well? Particularly since Menuhin had a long career and recorded some pieces an astounding number of times.

        And now and then Menuhin well into adulthood and middle age would play with most if not all of his former technical powers intact. The problem is that those certain reviewers (and there were far too many of them) had already expended their “playing as well as ever” superlatives on unworthy recordings and performances, so the praise had no power or legitimacy left in it when it was objectively accurate.

        As Steven Staryk remarked to me during one of our many interview sessions for Fanfare magazine, somehow Menuhin always pulled himself together for Bartók, no matter how poorly he was otherwise playing (and Staryk as Royal Philharmonic concertmaster sat through recording sessions with Menuhin which did not result in releasable recordings, or at least not releasable until modern day tape editing reached a level of sophistication that something could be made of the bits and pieces they labored over; Staryk particularly mentioned a Tchaikovsky Concerto which was the subject of recording session after session with no progress being made).

        Except for the oldest generation of serious record collectors who were there to hear the best of Menuhin when it was new and fresh, it really took the explorations of Biddulph and some other historic-minded record labels to make it plain exactly how and why Yehudi Menuhin was established as part and parcel of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, technically and interpretively: Paganini, his Bruch and Lalo, his earliest unaccompanied Bach, the famous Elgar Concerto of course, some of those early Sonata and encore showpiece recordings, not to mention the short pieces of Bloch. From a technical and interpretive standpoint, I’d say Menuhin could be listed among the greats based solely on his 78 rpm recording of the Bartók Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano with Adolph Baller.

        Even after the fall off in technique (a fall off in reliability) had begun, in Menuhin’s hi-fi and stereo remakes of works recorded on 78s there were still plenty of wonderful recordings: those with Furtwängler, Bartók solo sonata (including the remake, proving Staryk’s point). And even if the technique was showing some cracks, the interpretive mastery of phrasing and musical grammar was still fully intact in Menuhin’s recording of the Carl Nielsen Concerto.

        Again I think Menuhin’s reputation was done no favors by those writers and critics who expended the value of the phrase “playing as well as ever” where it was clearly misapplied. It gave too many people no reason and no incentive to listen further.

        The only time I heard Menuhin live (the Mendelssohn Concerto and the Bartók Concerto No. 1 with the Milwaukee Symphony) he was having what by the 1970s was an average/OK evening technically, maybe a bit above average. He’d played better but it was still virtuoso playing, because he retained that virtuoso attitude towards the instrument regardless of actual audible results. That goes a long way in putting a piece across. But what I found astounding was the quantity and quality of tone. Of course he had a great violin, but so did and do many others. This was a tone lit from within. Rich, glowing, and thick-pile. The chance to hear a violin tone such as that is a rare one.

        Why, based on that tone alone one might almost have been tempted to say he was playing as well as ever!

        • Amos says:

          Am I correct in recalling that as a child prodigy Menuhin was something of a “natural” who was lacking in the ability to technically analyze his own playing? If I’m recalling this correctly in his 20’s he had a period of crisis in which he wasn’t able to reproduce his earlier performances and wasn’t equipped at the time to determine why. If I have this right he obviously found the answers.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Thanks, David, for that balanced appraisal of Menuhin, whose sheer tone Greg also mentioned. His pre-War Chausson “Poeme” with Enesco and a Paris orchestra is another of his best. I’m also grateful for the “Golden Sonata” of Purcell, and his Bach sonatas with Landowska.

    Of violinists I heard live, Menuhin is one of the most memorable, along with Vasa Prihoda, Elman, Szigeti, Heifetz, Morini, Stern, Krachmalnik, Ilya Kaler, and Leonid Kogan; and those I know only from their records: Uto Ughi, Grumiaux, David Oistrakh, Adolf Busch, Kreisler, Milstein, Toscha Seidel, and Bronislaw Hubermann.